Cook lauds benefits of U19 World Cup
England opening batsman Alastair Cook is in little doubt the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup provides a vital career building block for the stars of tomorrow.
Now his country’s captain in one-day internationals, Cook led an England team featuring the likes of current international team-mate Tim Bresnan to the semi-finals of the 2004 version in Bangladesh.
Two years on, the Essex left-hander was handed his Test debut against India in Nagpur, where he followed up a first-innings 60 with an unbeaten century.
To date, 24 more England hundreds have followed for Cook, including three in a haul of 766 during the last Ashes series in Australia – where the current crop of under-19s will go head-to-head this month.
“What is really good value is it gives you some exposure to conditions outside your country,” said Cook.
“Our World Cup was in Bangladesh and it was my first tour to the sub-continent. So, the tour gave me the opportunity to experience what pitches are like and also a different way of life. As a whole, the learning curve and experience was fantastic.
“When you are playing U19 cricket for your county or state side, there is no media, there is no public interest. And suddenly, you are thrown at the world stage where people can make a name for themselves. After the matches, you have to do media interviews and you get to play in matches which are being broadcast live.
“Experiences like these can only help you develop as a player and realise what future you have, if you are lucky to play full international cricket.”
As Bresnan and himself were also flanked by the likes of Samit Patel, Ravi Bopara, Steven Davies and Luke Wright in 2004, Cook is well placed to judge how effective the Under-19 World Cup can be in propelling the career of elite youngsters.
“Without a doubt it is a launching pad for future stars,” he said. “You can see how many people have played Under-19 cricket and are now playing full international cricket.
“It is not a guarantee or anything, but it’s just a start to people’s careers rather than a pinnacle. But it was a really good experience for me, one I look back with fond memories and I really think it helped my career.”
The first steps towards cricketing immortality may be open to tread upon Down Under, but Cook insists the youngsters should not lose touch with the very essence of the game they love.
“Certainly they have to enjoy it, without a doubt,” he added. “Obviously, it is a very important time of their lives. They should enjoy competing against other people of their age and try to find out how good they are, both individually and as a side.
“Enjoy cricket, as cricket should be enjoyed no matter what level you are playing at and play with no regrets.”